Music Review

Neil Young & Crazy Horse take fans on epic ride

Neil Young performed with Crazy Horse Monday night at TD Garden.
Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Neil Young performed with Crazy Horse Monday night at TD Garden.

When Neil Young gets together with Crazy Horse, as he has since 1969’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” the songs become something else. They’re jams that unfurl in long stretches, clanging and guttural one moment and then unexpectedly lyrical the next.

To give you a sense of just how unhurried Young and Crazy Horse were Monday night at TD Garden, consider the numbers: 13 songs spread over two hours and 15 minutes, with no intermission.

The performance, needless to say, was epic. Epic enough that it required a singular approach to the music: You had to succumb to it, to let the solos sink in, to realize the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.


There was no denying Young’s chemistry with his Crazy Horse bandmates. Revving up with “Love and Only Love,” from 1990’s “Ragged Glory,” Young huddled with guitarist Frank Sampedro and bassist Billy Talbot, with Ralph Molina anchoring the songs behind them on drums. Together they locked like mad scientists testing a new experiment. The only thing headier than their solos was that first whiff of pot that tickled the nostrils right as the music started. (How did they do that?)

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When they locked into a tight groove, as they did on “Ramada Inn” (from their new album, “Psychedelic Pill”) and “Cinnamon Girl,” you lost sense of time and space. More often than not, though, the performance was impenetrable, leaving you steamrolled in the service of self-indulgence.

Simplicity was in short supply but a welcome respite, especially when Young went solo with an acoustic guitar for “The Needle and the Damage Done,” followed by “Twisted Road,” his new ode to the magic of first discovering Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and Roy Orbison.

Spiraling to 23 minutes, “Walk Like a Giant” captured the essence of both the evening and the new album. It was on another frequency, ending with an extended coda that found Young and the band coaxing distortion from their instruments as a wind machine blew debris across the stage. It was something you’d expect from a young indie-rock band in Brooklyn, not from a veteran rocker who just turned 67.

By contrast, Patti Smith, who opened the show with her band, concentrated her intensity into a potent 45 minutes. Even then she unleashed the fire and force that have made her compelling well into her 60s. She raged on “People Have the Power,” loosed a low, coarse growl on “Beneath the Southern Cross,” and became one with the sway of “Dancing Barefoot.”


After all these years, “Gloria,” a cover of the Them song that led off her 1975 debut, “Horses,” is still her tour de force. It plays up Smith’s strengths: a serpentine crawl that builds to a feral swagger. Right in the middle of the song, just as it picked up speed, Smith did the most logical and perfect thing. She spat, as if she couldn’t stand the taste of the words.

James Reed can be reached at